As many people continue to move to Tennessee, one important question to consider is how out-of-state estate plans are treated here in the Volunteer State. Must one rework their entire estate plan? Are Tennessee probate courts going to admit an out-of-state will? The short answer, as nearly always, is "it depends." The specific estate planning instrument and Tennessee laws that apply will determine the answer in any specific instance. This article will look at Tennessee law concerning out-of-state wills, and future articles will examine other estate planning documents and trusts.
Fortunately, Tennessee statutory law is clear on the validity of out-of-state wills. Per TCA § 32-1-107, out-of-state wills can be valid in 3 ways: 1) meeting Tennessee's execution requirements for a valid in-state will, 2) meeting the execution requirements at the time for a valid will in whatever place the will was executed, or 3) meeting the execution requirements at the time for a valid will in whatever place the testator was domiciled at the time the will was executed.
Thus, if a will was duly executed in a person's home state according to the rules there when it was executed, Tennessee has statutorily recognized it as valid. However, that is not a guarantee that Tennessee courts will enforce every provision, much less enforce the document the same way a court would in another state! What this really means is that a duly-executed out-of-state will should reliably get through the door of a Tennessee probate court. This is why it is important for a person moving to the state to consult a reputable Tennessee estate planning attorney about the specifics of their estate plan, including their will. An attorney can evaluate the specific content and language of a will and determine if changes should be made given its out-of-state origin.
Stay tuned for the next entry in this series in two weeks examining ancillary estate planning documents.
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